English Dub Review: King’s Game “Determination (Blood | Judgement)”

Do you like your haircut? Well, do you?

Overview (Spoilers)

Natsuko calls up Nobuaki using his cell phone, simply to gloat that she has it. She promises to kill him with the King’s Game, especially with the new order that came out. As she does so, she straddles Teruaki. I don’t know if she was banging him because of an order or because she wanted to, but he certainly didn’t seem to be happy about it. Overhearing her conversation, he begins to hatch a plot to turn the tables, perhaps protecting Nobuaki and taking out Natsuko. Unfortunately, she figures out his plan and swipes his phone. It isn’t the only phone she took. Many of the other players are without their phones, her way of ensuring they do as she asks. As all this goes down, Natsuko’s friend overhears it, and whimpers in the corner.

Courtesy: Funimation

Nobuaki returns to town and meets with another of his classmates. She’s been doing her own research into the King’s Game and has managed to get some good info. On her own, she managed to figure out that the texts sent to people just before they died were parts of a message. She did her best to collect them. Combined with the notes Nobuaki found from Yonagi village, they might have most of the message. Maybe, there’s a clue there! Brainstorm session ends early, as Natsuko interrupts. She and Nobuaki have a little aside that confirms the fate of the psycho chick’s sister, Chiemi. The final order given in any King’s Game is for the last two survivors to kill each other. The one who succeeds survives. Finding out that Nobuaki killed her sister does nothing to endear him to her. And everyone is gathering for the next order. In order of how they sit in class, each kid is given a turn. During their turn, they can break any number of fingers. Breaking fingers on the right hand is worth positive points, where the left hand is negative points. You could assign those points to anyone in the class, even yourself. Anyone with negative points when the last player finishes their turn will be punished. However, a player can pass their turn. While Nobuaki and Natsuko had their aside, the rest of the class discussed their plan. If everyone passes their turn, then everyone is safe. However, if Natsuko’s friend sides with her, she could kill anyone. They would be defenseless. It seems as if everyone is following along, but Teruaki needs a moment before his turn. He takes Nobuaki aside for… a haircut? This is mildly creepy. Yeah, he plans to be a hairstylist when he grows up. If he grows up. As soon as the cut is done, he starts breaking his fingers. Left hand gone, he points all of his negative points at the King!

Our Take

Gonna be honest, I wish Kenta was still alive. Somebody needs to get slapped around some more. This episode is all about proving how Natsuko should not be allowed to live through the King’s Game. Having been the sole survivor of a previous game, it seems as if she went to her new school with the full intention of the game starting over again. She does this not only because she’s psycho, but because she’s drunk with power, making an entire class do as she wishes so that they won’t get killed. However, if the idea that this is a virus is true, then it is spread around by people surviving the game. In order for it to truly be over, the entire class would have to die.

I find Riona’s contribution to the mystery a bit hard to swallow. Somehow, on her own, she discovered things that even Nobuaki didn’t figure out until he went to Yonagi Village. She learns a bunch of information that other people couldn’t, even though this information that would have been public knowledge. I have no problem with her being smart and all, but with all these other people who are researching its history, none of them found out about Natsuko’s past. It simply seems like lazy writing. The writers had new information and didn’t know how to bring it in, so they introduced a character to be a talking head. I believe how she found out about the message in the texts since they gave that a good explanation, but the rest is bad writing.

Speaking of characters they just drop on us, Teruaki. We are supposed to be all shocked and feel bad for him pulling this stunt at the end of the episode, but we hardly even know the guy. Furthermore, we could tell he was going to be this episode’s punching bag when he went from no screen time to be the focus of the whole shebang. This is not a problem with the episode, but one with the entire series. Having half the series be flashback episodes means that there are a few major characters and a bunch of cannon fodder. None of the other characters are given time to develop and allow us to connect with them, so their death and misfortune are meaningless to us. It also makes his sudden haircut feel like it was out of the blue, and very creepy. Anyone remember Freaky Fred from Courage the Cowardly Dog? I couldn’t get that out of my head while the barber scene dragged on. It’s creepy because we don’t know him, and it is so terribly timed. The action of the game was broken up by this, and instead of ramping up the tension, it shuts it down.

The animation in the episode was actually a notch down from the previous one. Shots they used during exposition to depict things from the past were basic, with parts sliding around with barely any detail to them. Honestly, the shot explaining what happened to Natsuko’s old school could have been done with clipart, and it would have looked about the same. All of the attention to detail here was on Natsuko, and her crazy eyes.

On the plus side, Apprill Bryn did a great job of portraying that insanity in her voicing of Natsuko. She brings out the feeling that this girl has taken a step off a train platform, and loves the ride she’s been given as a result. I just wish that the rest of the cast would bring a bit more to the party. Everyone else felt as if they were afraid to step outside of the character’s cubby hole. They had one character trait, and only worked with that voice their role. It left Riona, Teruaki, and even Nobuaki feeling flat, and the others as if they weren’t even there.

Score

Summary

The writing on the show has not gotten any better, and is squandering what started as a great concept. Add to that the slowly failing animation, and we have all the signs that this series is going to end as a dissapointment. I give this episode four broken fingers out of ten.

4.0/10

Marshall Daley

One part best-friend/philosopher, one part creepy mad scientist. Shaken, and sprinkled with geeky factoids, quirky humor, and a major case of skepticism towards the world and you might just find a cocktail that changes the way you see... Everything!

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